Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ouch! Why Sometimes We Should Ask Questions....

I have just returned from the dentist, having had a small filling replaced. The side of my mouth is numb: it was my choice to have an injection, not having the highest pain threshold in the world - the dentist thought that the discomfort of the injection would probably be greater than that of the drilling, but it wasn't really uncomfortable at all.

Over the years I have had a variegated relationship with the dental profession.
I had a feeling that the dental treatment I had in my youth was largely unneccessary, and this was indeed confirmed when I asked some questions a year or so ago. Puzzled by the fact that my own children's teeth were filling-free, and that when I was young my access to sweet stuff and fizzy drinks was even more restricted than theirs, I wondered aloud why I had a mouth full of ugly amalgam fillings when as a child/teenager I was regularly seen by our dentist.

Apparently - my very honest lady dental sugeon tod me - it's all to do with how dentists were paid in the sixties and seventies - they received money for work done: a tooth left unfilled was lost revenue, so my probably sound teeth were drilled into to get them cash.
If I spent a lot of time thinking about this I could get really mad: I have been exploited for money - not exactly maimed, but needlessly 'treated', filled with mercury.
I don't have (except for my incisors) one unfilled tooth in my head and, of course, fillings don't last for ever so I am a docile cash-cow that is obliged to drop in for 'milking' every so often.
The Husband's mouth is an even more extreme case: at least my fillings are discrete and I can floss around them. He has what I believe was referred to as the 'Australian trench' method of filling, whereby adjacent teeth were drilled and a slab of filling laid between the two, with no attempt to conform it to the individual tooth. He too, like me, has to go to the surgery regularly to have crumbly bits shored up and replaced. Thank goodness for the National Health Service!
My M-i-L's teeth are, and always have been I believe, in pretty poor condition, but for some strange reason she has opted to have her treatment done privately. I'm not sure if it's a good idea - she has spent hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds over the past few years on extensive treatment that doesn't seem to have benefitted her one bit. But of course, a private patient is another, far more bountiful, sort of cash-cow. Tell them they'll need some complicated stuff done and they'll mildly cough up.

A colleague of the Husband's, who had not been to the dentist for a few years needed, to re-register with the NHS to get treatment for an aching tooth. He decided in the interim to go private because of the discomfort, and was told that he needed the tooth extracting, a post inserted into the jaw and a porcelain cap fitted for £600. Coincidently, he found himself, almost immediately after, registered with an NHS practice and (horrified) popped along for a second opinion. He emerged from his 20 minute appointment having had a clean, descale and a small filling. He was charged £46.

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